Die Another Day. To some, a bit flawed but fun guilty pleasure. To others, quilty of being an extremely flawed Bond movie. Nevertheless, a lot of talent, money and ideas were thrown onto the screen while making this film. Therefore, whatever way one feels about the final product, there is a lot to explore in this silly, uneven, and yet surprisingly inventive Bond film.
Let's take a look at some facts that might make you appreciate this glorious mess just a bit more.
1. Title Song's Lyrics Are Not As Stupid As One Might Think
Die Another Day's title song, co-written and performed by Madonna, is a regular guest in the lists about worst Bond songs ever made. Truthfully, it's easy to see why, since the lyrics do seem to make no sense whatsoever.
However, they not only have an interesting subtext of their own, but also a pretty cool connection to the creator of Bond, Ian Fleming. The thing is, Fleming was an admirer of Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. In fact, Jung's work inspired Fleming a great deal when writing the Bond novels as a form of self analysis.
Now, regarding the lyrics above, Madonna has explained that they are actually meant as an irony towards Jung's rival and contemporary Sigmund Freud. In her opinion, everything can't be analyzed and Freud's ideas are a bit too cerebral and misogynist. More importantly, she went on to add that, like Fleming, she is a fan of Carl Jung's work, thus giving the much hated title song some surprising context.
2. Die Another Day Is "Spared No Expense" Filmmaking At Its Best
Although a huge CGI wave seems to have washed away the memory of it for many, this film pulls no punches when it comes to sets and action scenes. To bring out just a few examples of it:
- The filmmakers wanted a car chase on a frozen lake in Iceland, which unfortunately rarely freezes. No problem - they dammed the river linking the lake to the sea, thus freezing the lake.
- The ice palace, pictured above, was built from scratch and took about 6 months to finish. Nevertheless, during production, the director Lee Tamahori thought that wouldn't it be cool if there was a car chase through the ice palace set. Therefore, the designer, Peter Lamont, had to rebuild the set with steel girders to support the cars racing around it. Eventually, they also destoryed the set in order to make that scene happen.
No matter how silly, there is something admirable in going out of your way (and budget) like that for a movie. In the words of John Hammond from Jurassic Park: "We spared no expense."
3. Ridiculously Impressive Amount Of References And Homages
Since it was released around the buzz of Bond's 40th anniversary, the filmmakers did add a few references and homages to Bond. Although, a more appropriate description would be that they literally stuffed in every reference they could think of and then some. Come to think of it, the entire film seems to be built on references - and not just the Bond ones.
- More obvious ones in form of gadgets like the Jet Pack from Thunderball or crocodile submarine featured in Octopussy. Also, there are nods to iconic moments, such as Halle Berry emerging from the ocean as an homage to Ursula Andres in Dr No or the Union Jack parachute a'la The Spy Who Loved Me.
- More subtle ones like the music queues from older films (Dr No, On Her Majesty's Secret Service) and lines of dialogue ("My friends call me James Bond" line that was said in From Russia With Love). Furthermore, there are even nods to ridiculously small moments like Bond putting a ticket inside his right jacket pocket, and later pulling it out of the left one, as he did in Licence to Kill.
- Hints at Bond's heritage. For example, Roger Moore's daughter, Deborah Moore, plays a flight attendant. Also, Bond picking up a field guide to the Birds of West Indies is a nod to an ornithologist and bird expert, James Bond, whose name Fleming, by his own admission, stole.
To add to the overload of Bond references, there are some Monty Phyton ones thrown in for good measure as well. When Q walks past the invisible Aston Martin, it is a clear hint that Q's previous job might have been in the Ministry of Silly Walks. Also, Bond giving M "a flesh wound" does bring back memories of a certain unrelenting knight.
4. It Was a Launchpad For Two Awesome Actors
Although, they weren't exactly given much to work with in terms of dialogue and script, Die Another Day did bring Toby Stephens and Rosamund Pike into the prominence. Both have gone on to take pretty interesting roles with Stephens starring in TV show Black Sails and Pike, of course, almost netting an Academy Award for The Gone Girl.
While this film was by no means the best use of their talents, it did give these two a chance to display them elsewhere.
5. The Gadgets Are Not As Sci-Fi As One Might Think
Even Roger Moore (the first Bond in space) criticised the film for going overboard with the gadgets and losing all sense of reality. However, many of them are not that out there. Just a bit ahead of their time. The invisible Aston Martin, for example, is one of the more widely criticised elements of the movie. Yet, we are not that for from it.
Another example of a much criticised but not that unrealistic feature, are the virtual reality goggels that Bond used for a training simulation.
With Oculus Rift and other virtual reality devices, it really does not seem out of the realms of possibility that such a gadget could successfully be used for training like that.
To Sum Up
Die Another Day is a flawed movie to say the least, and deserves its fair share of criticism. However, in its own way, it is also an odd triumph in unapologetically outlandish filmmaking.